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Nelson plans tougher law to control invasive species

As Nelson tries to stave off foreign plants, the city plans to bring in a tougher law to deal with those invasive species growing on private property.

Nearly a decade after it included invasive species in its property maintenance bylaw, Chief Financial Officer Colin McClure confirmed work has “already started” on the bylaw that would bring the Queen City “in line with (the District of) Squamish.”

Squamish’s bylaw is very broad and prohibits many aspects of invasive species, including planting, “releasing” or “allowing accumulation or spread.” It also outlaws the sale of invasive plants and animals of any type, including plants in seed form.

The law includes fines up to $10,000 plus the cost of cleaning up private property if that property doesn’t meet “best management practices.”

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Planning for the tougher regulations surfaced Tuesday as city council heard from the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society on its plans for eradicating invasive plants.

The biggest problem in Nelson is knotweed with 62 identified sites in the city – 32 of those properties are wholly owned by the city. The others are on parcels that are either partially (called “shared jurisdiction”) or entirely owned by private landowners.

That’s where the law comes in because council heard from CKISS Executive Director Erin Bates that cleaning up partially-owned city property tends to be fruitless if there are invasive plants on adjoining private land.

“Even if the municipality is completely controlling everything possible on their jurisdictions, jurisdictions that are not directly managed by the city would need to be regulated in order to ensure that this is effective in the long run,” Bates said.

She says the law would be a “huge step in a great direction.”

CKISS has also identified another 11 priority sites with another half dozen invasive species like cutleaf blackberry and heart-podded hoary cress.

There are 35 sites that have Scotch broom with its trademark yellow flowers. One of the biggest sites is 5.5 hectares (14 acres) of Scotch Broom at the Nelson Hydro Generating Facility.

Most if not all of these invasive species tend to result in a “total takeover” of a site – as Acting Mayor Jesse Woodward put it – not allowing other plants to grow.

Nelson passed its property maintenance bylaw in 2013 that dealt with invasive plants on private property with a fine of $250.

No cleanup cost was included in Tuesday night’s presentation and no decisions were made as it was an update on plans for this year. The cost is expected to be in the budget later this spring.

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